Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday the Islamic Republic had launched industrial production of nuclear fuel at the Natanz center, about 1,000 miles from the Israeli border. Many countries, including Russia, doubted this statement saying Iran lacked the capability to reach industrial scale fuel production.
"Last year, when we spoke about the successful launch of 164 centrifuges cascade, for many months, doubts were also voiced," said Mohammad Saidi, a deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. "But in the end the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] acknowledged the achievement by Iranian scientists."
He said that starting April 9, 2006 Iranian nuclear scientists had been conducting calculations required for production of new centrifuges.
"It became possible due to round-the-clock efforts by Iranian specialists," Saidi said. "It should have taken more time to reach industrial scale of nuclear fuel production, but we have done it now."
Following Ahmadinejad's statement Monday reports have circulated that as many as 3,000 centrifuges had been launched at the Natanz center.
However, Iranian information agencies denied the figure, citing Iranian energy and security officials as saying it was too early to give an exact figure.
Saidi said Monday it was necessary to wait for 20 days until IAEA inspectors had delivered a report on the number of centrifuges currently in operation at Natanz.
Tensions continue to grow over the Iranian nuclear program as some Western countries, particularly the U.S., suspect Tehran is pursuing a covert weapons program since it resumed uranium enrichment in January 2006. But Tehran has consistently claimed it needs nuclear power for civilian power generation and is fully entitled to its own nuclear program.
The UN Security Council voted unanimously March 24 to impose new sanctions against the Islamic Republic for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.
The new UN Security Council resolution was passed following Tehran's refusal to comply with the previous resolution adopted December 23, 2006.
The new resolution freezes the foreign accounts of 13 companies and 15 individuals involved in uranium enrichment and missile development projects, imposes visa restrictions and bans arms exports from Iran. It also threatens new sanctions if Iran does not comply with the resolution within 60 days, and urges the Islamic Republic to return to negotiations.